Dawood - the new desert fox

The emergence of Mohammed Dawood has renewed the hope of top-class football making a return to Iraq.

Mohammed Dawood considers Younis Mahmoud his idol.   -  K. Murali Kumar

Football in Iraq has refused to bow down to wars and political turmoil besieging the country for decades. Once considered a powerhouse of Asian football, Iraq lost its footing temporarily after lifting the Asian Cup title in 2007.

Younis Mahmoud, the captain of the triumphant team, became a household name, scoring the winning goal in the final of the continental championship. His retirement left a major void in the country’s football. Now, the emergence of Mohammed Dawood has renewed the hope of top-class football making a return. At the age of 17, the striker has already contributed enough to live up to the faith of his countrymen, scoring three of his team’s total four goals in the ongoing FIFA U-17 World Cup.

Read: Dawood's brace helps Iraq net maiden U-17 World Cup win

Iraq is on the verge of making its maiden pre-quarterfinal entry in the World Cup and the country is already attributing its success to the exceptional ability of Dawood. The striker first came to the picture last year when he helped Iraq become the Asian U-16 Champion in Goa, scoring six goals and bagging the most valuable player of the tournament award.

Big-match temperament

Dawood has turned out to be a true ‘fox in the box’ with his phenomenal goal poaching ability, which established football teams of the tournament, such as Chile and Mexico, discovered to their detriment in the last two rounds of the Group F league.

Given his exceptional ability to destroy the opposition defence, Dawood is already drawing comparisons with the original ‘Desert Fox’ Younis Mahmoud, whom the former claims to be his idol. “It is a real pleasure and honour to be compared to Younis Mahmoud. I am trying my best in this competition to make my people happy,” Dawood had said this as Iraq warmed up for its second U-17 World Cup campaign. Dawood has already shown the big-match temperament, converting chances with the subtleness and touch that would match the calibre of the best in the business.

Dawood is so good with his job that Iraq has been setting its game plan on the efficiency of its lone striker. As it came out against both Mexico and Chile, the Iraq midfield seemed to be preoccupied with playing long balls to Dawood and the striker relished this faith converting opportunities into goals.

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